Passing remarks for those who have passed on

At the end of each year, news stations recount notable people who passed away during the previous 12 months. I’d like to mention a few who meant a great deal to me…

Baseball lost a treasure in 2021. In 1974, Henry Aaron slugged career homerun number 715, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s record after 39 years.  Aaron not only held records, he was held in high esteem by most, except for a small minority who resented a Black man surpassing the Bambino.   Legendary Dodger announcer Vin Scully would have none of it. He called the shot that day:

“A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record by an all-time baseball idol. What a marvelous moment it is for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the world.” Then Vin Scully went silent, letting his viewers absorb the moment.

Mort Sahl, the legendary comic, passed in 2021 at age 94. He was an observer of all things social and political, like Will Rogers, but far more acerbic. When I was in high school, just months after I got my license, I made my first solo auto trip to New York City. I was old enough to drive, but not quite old enough to drink. I somehow managed to sneak into the Bitter End, a Greenwich Village comedy club. I walked in and there was Mort Sahl sitting on a bar stool; his only prop was that day’s newspaper. This is his one-liner I still remember: “There are Russian spies here now. And if we’re lucky, they’ll steal some of our secrets so they’ll be two years behind.”

Good-bye to Ed Asner, the curmudgeonly TV news executive on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Earlier this year, I wrote about my interview with Mr. Asner and how I began the conversation by pointing out to him that his name was a clue in the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle that week.  Ed Asner was one of the few actors to get an Emmy Award for both a comedy and a drama on TV. My favorite line of his came while he interviewed Mary Richards for a job in the newsroom:

Mr. Grant: Mary, you have spunk.

Mary: Thank you, Mr. Grant.

Mr. Grant: I hate spunk.

Mark Twain died in 1910, but I felt like he died again this year when Hal Holbrook passed. I first saw Holbrook’s one-man show in 1973 in which he impersonated the great American writer. Holbrook became Mark Twain. He did over 2,000 performances, each time a little different, because he pulled his show from six hours of material he had absorbed. He was never quite sure what would emerge on any given night. No one was ever disappointed.

Earlier this month, we mourned the loss of former Senator Robert Dole. I never knew him and seldom agreed with him, but I recognized the gentleman and hero that he was. He was a great wit who once panned his own failing presidential campaign against Bill Clinton by saying at a rally, “Thanks for inviting me here tonight. My wife, Elizabeth (who was president of the American Red Cross), couldn’t be here. She’s at another disaster.”

Tommy Lasorda was the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976-1996.  His greatest claim to fame (other than winning two World Series) was that he somehow was able to get the Phillies mascot, known as the Phillie Phanatic, ejected from a baseball game for driving his all-terrain vehicle on the field with a life-size dummy of Lasorda sitting in the back seat. 

Google “Lasorda Mascot” to see the hysterical video on YouTube. Then you can tell your friends you finally finished a Wolfsie column with a big laugh.

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@